One sheet of paper makes two PHOTOinfer activities to be used by two different students. Each PHOTOinfer has an anchor tab that is used to adhere it to a page within a student notebook. PHOTOinfer asks students to observe a photograph, make inferences based upon their observations, communicate what they experience internally and with others, and extend what was observed and inferred to other areas of their life and knowledge bank. 

We placed two copies of the same template per downloadable page to reduce paper use and your printing costs. Print PHOTOinfers in black and white for student use, but view the color version in a PowerPoint or projected onto a white board for discussions. Currently PHOTOinfers are based upon Earth, Life, and Physical Science concepts, but they will eventually be available for Math, Social Sciences, and Language Arts.

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How many students can see beyond the picture or read between the lines?

When we ask students to see beyond the picture or read between the lines, they use skills that involve inferencing.Inferencing is important in all areas of life and learning, and it does not come naturally to everyone. Students can be taught to be more metacognitive in their reading and observational skills through inferencing. Good readers use the clues presented in a story or text to make inferences. When combined with their own experiences, these inferences make reading more meaningful.

Likewise, when observing the world, inferences help the observer enjoy and understand what is viewed while mentally interjecting personal experiences and knowledge. These skills are important because the interactions that occur between the student and their observations of the physical world, photographs, and/or graphics will enrich their life and enhance how they experience life. Inferencing skills and thinking about one’s own thinking processes, can become even more valuable when students are guided to extend their experience by relating it to other people, places, things, or other content areas, and communicating their thinking processes with others.

Vocabulary Extension With PHOTOinfer

PHOTOinfer activities are also vocabulary extenders. Students are encouraged to use academic vocabulary and supporting terms, and they listen for new and review terms used by others. A good discussion, extension, and communication time will include terms that are on, below, and above their current ability levels.

At DINAH.COM, we believe in immersing students in the language of content. On each PHOTOinfer, you will notice several vocabulary terms used in the title that might or might not be used by students interacting with the activity. It is suggested that students write several terms in the space on the anchor tab. Students are then encouraged to use these terms in their writing under the tabs, as well as any other terms they hear during the discussion that they understand and find relevant. (Early Childhood classes will dictate what they want the teacher to write under the tab of a classroom example.)

Search by a science topic and you will probably find one or more PHOTOinfer activities.

Step-by-Step PHOTOinfer Example

If you observe a photograph of something green with drops of something clear on the green object and you are working with upper elementary to middle school students, you might infer that the green object is a plant and the clear drops are water coming from dew or rain or that someone had recently watered the plant. You would look for clues to tell you which of these might be reasonable, and you might or might not be able to determine the cause of the drops by the photograph alone.

While observing, you note that the green object looks like a blade of grass. You observe that the clear drops form a convex shape and that the green object is magnified under the convex shape revealing what looks like parallel veins. Students might know or be guided to understand that this observation confirms that it is a leaf, and that monocot leaves have parallel veins. Since grass is a monocot, the green object might be grass. Because of your knowledge base, you might infer that the adhesive and cohesive properties of water result in the shapes of the drops to form a natural lens. Thus your inference that it is water on the leaf and not another clear liquid is probably correct since these are properties of water.

If it is noted that there seems to be natural light in the photograph, you might also infer that it was taken during daylight hours on an uncloudy day, providing the light needed for viewing the magnification.

This higher level example illustrates how experiences, prior knowledge, questioning, and the use of informational text can be important in helping students to make and analyze observations, to use inferences to form opinions, to make predictions, and/or to reach conclusions.

Using PHOTOinfer in a Primary Classroom

It is crucial that young students be provided opportunities to observe and make inferences based upon what they know and what they have experienced. Depending on the age and ability levels of students, the ratio of observations to inferences will vary. For five-year-olds, there might be more observations than inferences. They need practice in learning how to make independent qualitative observations, and they need to be taught methods for making quantitative observations.

Primary observations might include identifying colors and shapes and naming objects. They might infer that it is daytime, that things are wet, the drops are rounded, that the plant is alive because it is green, and that it is grass because of its shape. The knowledge about the type of leaf (monocot) and the reason the drops form convex shapes will come with future study, maturity, and science experiences.

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